Find out about some of the amazing wildlife that call South Australia home.
Have you heard the call of a Bassian thrush? Did you know a kowari, although pint size, is quite the predator? Or that the glossy-black cockatoo lays a single egg and rears just one fledgling a year?
This Australian Wildlife Week (October 2–8) meet some of the unique critters that call South Australia home and the initiatives underway to secure their future in our state.
The nationally endangered Bassian thrush (Zoothera lunulata halmaturina) is a beautiful bird, coloured with subtle brown and cream feathers. It has scalloped black crescent-shaped bars down its back, rump and head, offering it perfect camouflage in its habitat of thick leaf litter.
A ground-dwelling bird found in wet forest gullies and densely vegetated areas, the Bassian thrush breeds in winter when their favourite food – earthworms – are easier to find.
When foraging, the thrush often stands still before dashing forward and then vigorously jabbing its sturdy bill into the ground to seize a worm. When males are foraging, they can carry up to 5 or 6 very large worms at a time, laying the wiggling pile down each time they extract an extra worm.
Recently, the rarely spotted bird was identified during wildlife surveys conducted across national parks in the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula.
Using small audio recorders hung in trees, known as ‘audio moths’, researchers from the University of Adelaide are listening out for the Bassian thrush’s unique call to identify where it can be found across more than 60 different sites in South Australia, including in parks, SA Water, Forestry SA and private land.
The survey has already resulted in several confirmed sightings in new locations, including Eurilla Conservation Park, Blackfellow’s Creek and Belair and Hindmarsh Valley National Parks.
Hear the audio of the Bassian thrush that researchers collected during their surveys. (The Bassian thrush is the main, loud bird, which sounds a bit like a blackbird.) Audio courtesy of Rebecca Boulton from the University of Adelaide.
Kowaris (Dasyuroides byrnei) are small carnivorous marsupials that are closely related to quolls and Tasmanian devils.
Once found across arid South Australia, they are now only present in a small pocket of the state’s far northeast, in the Sturt Stony Desert.
Small in stature, with large upright ears, a light-grey coat and a distinctive black, bushy, coarse tail, the kowari is easily one of Australia’s cutest, yet lesser-known native species.
Despite being small in stature they are ambitious predators, hunting at night for invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, rodents and even birds and their eggs!
During the day, they shelter in burrows in sand mounds across stony gibber environments, where temperatures often exceed 40°C in summer and fall below 5°C in winter.
A decline in populations across desert regions of central Australia has the kowari listed as nationally vulnerable, with previous research showing the species has a 20% chance of extinction in the next 20 years.
In a world-first, 12 kowaris were translocated to Arid Recovery’s cat and fox-free fenced reserve in August. The aim of the translocation is to establish an insurance population for the kowari to ensure this elusive and declining species can be safeguarded into the future.
You can read all about the translocation event on the Arid Recovery blog.
Check out this thermal clip of the kowari in action, venturing out of a sand burrow it has repurposed from a hopping mouse. (Footage courtesy of Arid Recovery with video equipment loaned by Nature Foundation.)
Glossy black cockatoo
The South Australian subspecies of glossy black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami halmaturinus), is found on Kangaroo Island and listed as endangered under both national and state legislation.
The smallest of the 5 black-cockatoos, adult males have plain brown heads and bright red panels in their tail feathers, and females have barred red tail panels and yellow markings on their head, especially around the neck.
The South Australiansubspecies is smaller but has a bigger bill than the subspecies found along the Great Dividing Range and east coast of Australia. It feeds almost exclusively on the seeds of the drooping sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), and nests in hollows in large old-age Eucalyptus species.
Glossy black-cockatoos are also unique because they have a very low reproductive rate, laying a single egg and rearing one fledging per year.
Once also found on mainland South Australia, the species disappeared from the mainland in the 1970s due to large-scale clearance of sheoak trees, with the population contracting to Kangaroo Island, where as little as 160 birds remained in the early 90s.
There were also severe concerns for the species after the 2019-20 Kangaroo Island bushfires, with more than 50% of their feeding habitat and nearly 40% of nesting sites located within the 210,000 hectares of bush destroyed.
A concerted recovery program run by the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board has supported a steady increase in the population to about 400 birds. This work includes propagating and planting drooping sheoaks on private properties, managing nest sites to reduce predation and competition, and monitoring the population and the recovery of feeding habitat.
In July 2022, a rare sighting was made in Deep Creek National Park on the Fleurieu Peninsula. You can read more about the sighting here.
Are you interested in learning more about South Australia’s cockatoo species and where to spot them? Check out: Where to see SA’s 8 species of cockatoo.